Technology has gripped the life of consumers like never before. today, every decision is taken with the click of a button. And the foodservice industry is no different. Apps of companies like Zomato, Foodpanda, and Dineout are being touted as trendsetters for opening the floodgates to innovative technological advancements.
Thanks to these apps, diners can explore menus and even the ambience of any restaurant from the comfort of their homes. Customer reviews can help enhance the decision-making proccess and they can avail of discounts and deals, book tables and even order curated menus much before they actually reach the restaurant.
But trouble seems to be stewing in restaurant app paradise. Despite helping streamline India’s fine and casual dine processes with so many facilities, many apps are failing to impress restaurateurs.
Restaurateur Umang Tewari, who owns Big Fish Ventures and has an app covering all his restaurants, says, “I am a tech addict. Right from checking layouts to reports to movie tickets, I do everything online. That’s where I got the idea of creating an app that has all the information about our outlets. In my mind, this would help us connect more with our audience. Right from table reservation to loyalty offers to discounts and all other information regarding the outlets is available on the app.”
At present, the Big Fish Ventures app caters to more than 60,000 customers based on who frequent the restaurants every month. And Tewari plans to increase the number to over 1 lakh by end of 2016.
Direct Connections Matter
Individual restaurant apps not only help restaurants in connecting with customers directly, but also aid in garnering consumer loyalty in a cut-throat environment which sees new (and innovative) restaurants open on a daily basis. The added advantage of directly engaging with customers aside, apps help revenue burgeon.
Take for example Raasta’s mobile app – Raasta Lounge. This is not your usual app. It is also a loyalty e-card on the go with some amazing offers in store. The Raasta Lounge app – which is available on Android and IOS – has seen over a 1,000 downloads in just one month. The app works on the point-system which has been infamously renamed Raasta Joints that are redeemable at Raasta Hauz Khas Village, CyberHub, and the recently launched Raasta Mumbai.
Co-partner, Raasta, Joy Singh says, “Raasta, as a place has always known for its individuality and its connection with people, with an individual app we are getting a step closer to the patrons and people who have been associated with Raasta since the day of its inception. Also, we are roping in more people who are new to the app world.”
Earning loyal customers is the key to success for any restaurant. And to earn these loyal customers, restaurants run various loyalty programmes. As the digital medium is gaining momentum and consumer preferences are evolving, a new method of rewarding customers – app based reward points – has emerged.
“The Beer Cafe app was designed and created to engage customers, drive loyalty and grow revenue. Our mobile based rewards program was developed to cater to beer enthusiasts who love our brand—rewarding them for their patronage. Our goal is to provide value to our guests in every way possible.,” says Founder and CEO, The Beer Cafe, Rahul Singh.
The Beer Cafe app announces offers, promotes events, updates menu, gives directions to stores and monetises the brand via push notifications. One can also buy the Beerosphere range of merchandise from the app.
To lure customers into downloading the app, restaurant owners are also coming up with exclusive offers.
Co-owner, Tabula Beach, Sahil Gupta, who will be soon launching their new app, Eat. Drink. Play., reveals, “Tabula Beach, The Hungry Monkey, and Arriba-Mexican Grill and Tequilleria are three different restaurants under one umbrella brand but are completely different from each other. The restaurants are appreciated by the guests who visit to have a good time and delicious meal. The idea behind launching the app is to create loyalty among the customers who are visiting the three properties. Eat. Drink. Play. users will get offers from this app that are exclusive and not available on any other app.”
Restaurants which own apps are also listed on restaurant aggregator apps, a healthy hand-in-hand approach where there is a learning from both the sides. However, they also don’t shy from stressing that the restaurant aggregator apps have an edge over the other.
According to CEO, Foodpanda, Saurabh Kochhar, “Both – the restaurant aggregator apps and individual apps aim at providing benefits to the customer. But still, restaurant aggregator apps have a lot more ease and convenience as compared to the individual restaurant apps as they cater to both the repetitive customers and experiment diners with an equal ease. Aggregator apps offers various options like variety of cuisines, long list of restaurants, order tracking and a lot more which is not possible in an individual restaurant app.”
The apps also need to be updated daily to hold the interest of the consumers and as restaurants lack in efficient manpower, it might prove as a task for them to get enough people.
According to Co-founder, Dineout, Ankit Mehrotra, “While it is encouraging that restaurants are investing in technology and progressively becoming more integrated, the challenge will always be in getting enough people to download stand-alone apps and interacting with them regularly. Phone storage is always going to be a problem, and stand-alone apps will serve only short-term goals, whereas an aggregator service like Dineout has a larger ecosystem thereby enabling more conversions.”
Apps like Zomato White Label offers features such as targeted push notifications, real-time information and menu management, and marketing tools to merchants at their fingertips. The app is based on a subscription model that bundles Zomato’s existing restaurant management app – Zomato For Business – into each subscription for free. These White Label apps integrate seamlessly into all the ancillary services Zomato offers, such as Online Ordering, Table Reservations, in-app Cashless payments, Loyalty programs and our point of sales product – Zomato Base.
According to company spkoesperson, Zomato, “The value proposition a user seeks from a search, discovery, and transaction platform – offering users in-depth information for over a million restaurants across 23 countries, like Zomato, versus an app that allows them to stay updated on the deals and promotion for a frequently visited restaurant are very different.”
Plus, the investments in running an app is high, and the demands will only keep escalating with time.
“For a restaurant to build an app might not be a challenge if they have enough money, however the real test comes when they need to innovate and integrate new things like payments, loyalty, feedback, buying deals and booking events, pre-ordering, pre-blocking slots by paying and other emerging functions. To do this, a restaurant will need to constantly invest and upscale, which is demanding a lot from a management perspective,” stresses Mehrotra.
Adding a Personal Touch
But the restaurant owners think in a different way. They believe that by collaborating with various other apps, they might loose the connection that they have developed with the customers over the years.
“By tie-ups with the other food and beverage apps, we don’t want to lose on the connection we’ve maintained with people over the years. We keep updating the app users about the upcoming events and special offers and plan on bringing more additions to our app in coming future,” concludes, Joy Singh.